Dr. Philip Schalow
POP! There it goes again! You opened your mouth at dinner, and your jaw advertised the fact with an audible sound. It may cause no pain just yet, or it may be causing you severe pain. Maybe it started after your best friend smacked you on the jaw for your birthday. Maybe it just snuck up on you. This is a condition called TMJ, or more specifically, temporomandibular joint syndrome. There are perhaps 11 million people in the USA who deal with this syndrome that describes the net effect of what can often be a series of problems.
In TMJ syndrome, the joint of the jaw is out of alignment, causing abusive pressures to the joint. It can be associated with muscle spasms, torn ligaments in the joint, and wearing down of the bone of the joint. This can lead to osteoarthritis and unbelievable pain.
The good news is that TMJ is correctable. Let me list some of the factors that can contribute to TMJ syndrome: bad teeth that don’t fit together right, a misaligned atlas (the first bone in the neck), a misaligned collarbone, trauma to the head that has knocked the jaw out of position and poor habits of using the jaw (such as grinding the teeth).
Whatever the cause, TMJ is rarely a simple problem to fix and requires careful diagnosis to identify the contributing factors.
One of the aggressive and irreversible treatments for TMJ is surgery to cut the nerves transmitting pain. Other treatments that are more fun include biofeedback to reduce muscle tension and physical therapy to strengthen the joint.
Having lessons in the FM Alexander Technique can give you the ability to “be your own biofeedback machine.” One way of treating TMJ that actually corrects some causes of the problem is upper cervical chiropractic care (NUCCA). Most chiropractors learn to adjust the TMJ in just the right way so normal tracking and range of motion is restored. Other chiropractors specialize in correcting the small atlas misalignment at the top of the neck, which has been shown to cause this — and many other — problems.
Current medical thought is that TMJ can be corrected within a matter of two or three months. Depending, of course, on what is causing your TMJ syndrome, upper cervical chiropractic care can even have an immediate effect on this painful syndrome.
So, next time your jaw goes “POP,” ask yourself how far you want this problem to go.
Dr. Philip Schalow is a NUCCA practitioner in Rockford. He owns 1st Step Chiropractic, S.C., 4519 Highcrest Road, Rockford. In recognition of Chiropractic Awareness Month, there are two public opportunities to discover more about your spine and how upper cervical chiropractic helps to relieve spinal imbalance and TMJ syndrome — Oct. 13 and Oct. 27. Call (815) 398-4500 for details or visit www.MyRockfordChiropractor.com.
From the Oct. 10-16, 2012, issue